United States stimulus tapering 'not negative for Asean': DPM Tharman

The scaling back of United States stimulus measures and tightening of US monetary policy, when they happen, will not be a bad thing for Asean economies, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday.

Mr Tharman, who was speaking at the inaugural Network Asean Forum at the Shangri-La Hotel, noted that it is not in anyone's interest for very low global interest rates to continue indefinitely, and that these low rates have led to a build-up of financial imbalances in Asia.

His comments come as Asian markets are in flux, with investors pulling out their funds from the region in anticipation of the US Federal Reserve's tapering of its bond-buying programme. Also known as "quantitative easing" or QE, the programme has pumped massive amounts of liquidity into global markets over the past three years.

"The unwinding of QE would also take place together with a recovery in the US, and is not in itself a negative for Asean economies," Mr Tharman said.

"Growth among Asean economies has stronger structural underpinnings than in most other regions. Further, the risk of balance of payments crises in the region is relatively low."

Still, Asean faces some long-term challenges that it will have to tackle to reinforce its fundamentals, he added.

With growth in major markets such as the United States expected to slow and China shifting to a more consumption-led economy, Asean will have to create conducive conditions for private investment to grow here, raise productivity and accelerate regional integration, he said.